Francis (Frank) Drake Bauder, my maternal grandfather, passed away on Monday, June 1, 2015 and I’m incredibly grateful for his life. Born 8 years before the depression hit the United States, he had over 94 years under his belt and he made a real dent in the world. Over the years he shared several fun, interesting and amazing stories with me and I’d like to share just a few of those stories here, along with their lessons.
Be bold: His adult life started abruptly when his father unexpectedly passed away from complications during a routine gall bladder surgery. In that moment, he became the primary provider for his family and during the depression, work was not easy to find. His lucky break came while working as a part-time filing clerk with the state unemployment office. As he overheard it, the director of personnel with Spenser Lenses was looking for a full-time glass cutter. With this information, Frank rushed over to the factory and walked past a line of men that was over a block long, all of them there to apply for the job. Walking past the line and into the small waiting room he notified the clerk behind the window that he was there for his appointment with the personnel director. The director was so impressed with Frank’s bold attitude that he immediately gave the job of cutting glass and making lenses to Frank.
Be brave: In 1942, following the bombing of Perl Harbor, Frank enlisted in the US Army Air Corps along with other men and women from the Greatest Generation. Shortly after enlisting, Frank was selected for air cadet school and then reassigned to bombardier school. This assignment brought his life with lenses back into focus… (he would have enjoyed that joke).
On April 28, 1944 while flying a mission over Orbetello, Italy, Frank’s plane was struck by flak and the crew was forced to bailout. After crawling out of the mortally wounded plane at 17,000 ft he began what at first was a rapid fall towards occupied Italy. His ripcord failed to deploy his parachute and he was forced to unpack it by hand while speeding towards the enemy soldiers who were waiting on the ground with dogs. This was day 1 of his 51 days behind enemy lines evading capture by the Nazis. Throughout these 51 days he was forced to remain brave, evading capture, helping and being helped by local villagers, and refusing to give up. He finally succeeded in rejoining the allied forces on June 17, 1944 when he walked past the enemy and across the British lines.
Serve others: In the months and years that followed Frank married Joanne (Jody). Over the course of time, they both went on to become civil servants; but, that was just the start of how they served others. On several occasions Frank and Jody had to put their interests on hold for the betterment of their country and neighbors. Examples included serving as an Ombudsman for free, taking a significant pay cut to serve in senior roles within US Customs, leaving a newly built home within a week of their scheduled move in, and Frank putting his life in harms way such as the time he stopped a wanted mobster’s car by standing directly in front of it as it crossed the peace bridge from Canada to the United States.
Frank’s service also included taking a vested interest in the lives of young children within their communities. Prior to becoming a US Customs agent, Frank served as the head of the mathematics department for the Cleveland Hill school district. Later on he served in numerous roles with the Boy Scouts of America, investing in the character and lives of the young men in his community.
Have a sense of humor:
“If I (Frank) ever lost [my] sense of humor, it was because [I’m] dead.”
When riding an elevator and the elevator would stop on a floor and the doors would open but no one would get on or off, Frank was known for saying out loud “Well hello Harvey” in reference to the invisible bunny named Harvey in the James Stewart movie “Harvey”. This stopped abruptly when he offended a fellow rider on the elevator whose name happened to be… Harvey.
Be a friend: Throughout all of this time, Frank came to highly value his friendships. The most important of these was his friendship with Jody, his wife, and my sweet grandmother. While spending time with him, he would often remind me that throughout life you will call many people friend; but, while you come into your twilight years you will realize that most of those you called friend at one point are no longer a part of your life. With this conversation, he would encourage me to seek true, life-long friends and remind me that the best of these should be in your family.
Frank was many things throughout his life: a son, a soldier, a husband, a teacher, a father, a servant, an avid learner, a writer, a story teller, a collector, and a patient in later years; but, most of all he was a friend to those he loved.